NASCAR race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway has come and gone, and all that’s left are the trash and the trash talk. On Monday morning, March 18, SBNation christened Sunday’s race at Bristol as the “best race of the year.” Yet, all we still hear is the “yack, yack, yack” about what’s supposedly wrong with Bristol’s racetrack. What is keeping the fans away?
Some suggest we need to grade the track this way or slant the slope that way because drivers aren’t bumping and wrecking like people expect at Bristol. Others assume the weather is a factor because of the change in race dates. Some say the tickets or the lodging are too expensive, and others say the traffic camera at Bluff City has made race fans feel unwelcome when they get home and have a speeding ticket in the mail.
Then there are others, such as the Sports Editor at the Bristol Herald Courier , Jim Sacco, who seems to just not want to talk about it. He thinks if you are not in charge of the profit margin at Bristol Motor Speedway, you should not worry about it.
What? Still want to complain? Still want to look at the empty seats and say, “Told you so, I want my old Bristol back (baby)”?
Keep playing that fiddle, though Rome wasn’t burning Sunday. And, please, the only people wringing their hands over empty seats should be bottom-dollar track officials, certainly not the fans.
Closing your eyes does not make the people reappear in the seats. And, what isn't mentioned is the loss of local business and tax revenue that is also a result of the empty seats. If you want the true picture, ask the locals.
Usually race traffic on race weekend in Bristol is so bad that people are afraid to leave their driveways, and some churches even cancel services because of the race. Locals will tell you there was no race traffic to talk about this year on Saturday or Sunday. Those who park cars or campers on their property will also tell you that the people just didn’t come this year.
Locals will tell you that they would love to come to the race, but they can no longer afford to come. There used to be plenty of employers providing race tickets for employees, but that doesn’t happen as often anymore. And many locals will tell you they don’t even have jobs at all, at least not decent-paying jobs.
The problem with Bristol’s NASCAR race is not the degree of the downward slope of the bank but the downward slope of the economy, particularly the local economy. With all the music and people passing through Downtown Bristol now, there are still few good jobs available in Bristol.
While the statistics of how many race fans are local or visitors is not available, the local economy has played a large part in the empty seats.
The national economic picture is not great across the country, and the price of gas has probably become a major inhibitor for many who used to bring campers and make a week out of it at Bristol. Most of these people were not rich people, but they are a lot less rich now than they used to be. Bringing an RV to Bristol for the race and buying tickets and other expenses is an expensive proposition. They are not missing the race because they don’t want to see it anymore.
People everywhere are feeling uncertain about the future. The government is on the brink of an economic collapse every few months it seems. Those who have jobs and health insurance aren't sure that they will after Obamacare takes effect.
Almost everyone I know is "prepping" at least a little, if only with some extra Campbell's Soup stored in the garage. If people are worried enough to start storing food, doesn't it make sense that an expensive trip to a race would be a luxury?
You can see in the attached slideshow from Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 that there were more than a few empty seats even for a Nationwide race on Saturday. There were also plenty of empty seats on Sunday for the big event, although not as many as the previous day.
You can deny that the economy is bad. You can deny people are hurting financially. You can even deny that Bristol Motor Speedway is a great NASCAR venue. What you can’t deny are the empty seats.
There’s a saying around here that goes, “Its Bristol, Baby.”
It is. And, it is what it is.